Why (and How) You Should up your Marketing During a Downturn

I wasn’t about to witness the Great Depression of the 30’s but I remember vividly the great recession of 2008. For anyone reading this and wondering what it was like, economists have been well published in saying it was the second worst economic downturn in history after the 30’s. It lasted almost two years!

I learnt a lot in that time but a few things that impacted the space I work in, stick with me to this day. As I consider the threats that surround us in these unprecedented times, some of these have re-surfaced again in my memory. There is no doubt in my mind that we are at the beginning of a period of downturn and economic uncertainty, caused by the Coronavirus, but hopefully the lessons I learnt about marketing in 2008-2010 will serve us well again over difficult times to come.

Please remember as you read this, that these lessons are purely about marketing and I’m focusing on business here, not Health and Wellbeing. Clearly the latter takes precedent and we all need to do what’s important to keep ourselves and our loved ones looked after. I just wanted to share some positive lessons, drawn from another very difficult time, for you to hopefully take some solace and even benefit from.

So the most important lesson I learnt from 2008 was that savy businesses (including struggling ones) continued and in some cases increased their marketing spend during that downturn. For many this must have been hard but I remember having lots of conversations with business leaders who took this decision and I remember their reasons as if it were yesterday. I hope these points might help you with your own strategies for getting through turbulent times.


Here are the key reasons that they took this approach:

  1. In any downturn, there is always still business out there to win, so quite simply, if you’re not visible then you’re not in with a shout. Marketing in particular is not something you turn on and off, people need to see you multiple times before purchasing, so its vital to remain active and give yourself a shot to win the business that does exist.
  2. If times are tough then the last thing you want to do is come out of the other side (or approach it) having not done any marketing. Businesses who did this back in 2008 noticeably struggled to get momentum on the other side and many were being outdone at this point by their competitors, who had stolen the march on them. Sadly I remember a number that went to the wall because it was almost like starting again for them.
  3. For just the reason I allude to above, this is the chance you might be looking for to take on and dominate your competitors as they potentially pair back and in some cases, stop altogether. If your competitors have slowed down then this is the time to ramp up and take the business that is there as well as coming out the other side with all the glory.

Here are a few quick tips to help you on your way:

Create/Update your Personas

Crunch your numbers, talk to your customer facing teams and put together or update your customer personas (fictional representations of your ideal customers). Take a look at makemypersona.com which helps you through the process. This is always the first thing you should do before any other digital marketing.

Get Content Marketing

If you end up self-isolating you could find yourself with more time on your hands due to cancelled meetings or gatherings. This is a perfect time to get writing. Think about blog posts you could write, downloadable resources you could create or even adding more pages on your website specifically aimed at attracting search engine traffic. Remember to use tools like answerthepublic.com and alsoasked.com to find out what people want to know, that you have the answers to.

Get Videoing

We’re all going to have get used to being in front of a camera more over the coming months. We’ll be forced to with video calling becoming a go-to replacement instead of face to face meetings. As with the previous suggestion, get yourself behind a camera (a good smartphone will suffice for now) and start creating content that is useful and educational for your personas.

Up your Search Engine Optimisation Game

Those who know the SEO space know it takes a long time to get results, usually months, sometimes even years. Probably best left to the experts this one but there are two very important aspects you can influence yourself. 1). Backlinks (when someone else links to you), aim to increase these to your site – set yourself a goal of one new one every week. 2). Create Content. Its hard to rank without content (spot a theme here?)

Paid Advertising

Social/Google/Other Networks – Again another one where you should really call in the experts (as its easy to spend money) but a great one to really double down on while others are potentially cutting back. You could pick up keywords and phrases at much cheaper rates than usual as the competition will be less.

Email Marketing

Communication with your client base during these times will be paramount. Look into tools like our very own OptixMail or Mailchimp and get emailing. Try not to sell, sell, sell as that will put people off. Provide value and people will buy.

Social Media

Is it time to review your social media strategy? Have you been using these platforms to sell or educate? Now is the time to review which platforms are best for your personas and then create value which can be shared across your networks. It may also be worth considering targeted campaigns aimed at directly messaging these personas using tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator or even Instagram DMing (depending on your target demographics)


No-one knows how long we’re going to be facing uncertainty, in 2008 it felt like it was never ending but one things for sure, where there is doom and gloom, there is also opportunity if you’re prepared to think about things in a different way. I know that now, more than ever our internal teams in my own business will be ratcheting up our own marketing efforts for the very reasons I mention above.

Alastair Banks

Alastair co-founded Optix Solutions with his university course mates in 1999. Since then he has gone on to be recognised as a real expert in his field, consulting for a number of national organisations and speaking on his subject matter all over the UK and Europe.

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